I recently completed a proposal for a potential new client who is looking for a brand identity, and in it, I noted that she didn't need a full brand guide, but a brand overview would be a good addition to her branding package. As I was putting this together, it occurred to me that there are a lot of people who might use those terms interchangeably - so what's the diff'?
Long story short - the difference is in the length and detail of the document.
A brand guide is a more extensive document that can go over virtually everything in how you want your brand to be portrayed. The most basic things, like what versions of your logo exist and how they should be used, color palette, and font choices are always included. But you have an opportunity to also include things like:
pictures - what they should be of, how they should look, and things to think about when choosing new ones
how email signatures should be formatted
color choices for color blindness considerations
logo and verbiage placement on pictures
These are all things I've included in a client's brand guide before, and some brand guides can get very bulky, very quickly. But for those organizations that want to have some sense of control over every angle, that's perfect. They're also great for an organization who works with a lot of third-party vendors - no one wants to explain all the rules, all the time.
A brand overview, on the other hand, is typically a one-page document that looks at things from the highest level. The overviews I've done are simple - what fonts are included in the brand, brand color palette, and logo options. Sometimes I'll also include a brand pattern (but not always).
So how do you choose which one is right? In the instance of this client, a brand overview makes more sense because they are not a large corporation, and their brand is being specifically designed for an educational platform. It's not a "full business" in the most traditional sense, but more of a bonus offering. It doesn't need all the bells and whistles of a full brand guide - the client won't ever use them. However, they will use an at-a-glance reference of colors and fonts anytime they're building a new piece of education material.
While many people will use "guide" and "overview" interchangeably, you won't find that here - they're very different things in my vocabulary, and which one makes the most sense for your business depends on a lot of factors.
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